Thursday, March 3, 2011


One of my favorite memories from childhood explains a lot about why I love to read so much now: both of my parents read to my brother, sister, and me from before I can remember. Even when we grew to middle school-age, they still read to us. One of the many series that my dad read to us was C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I remember liking The Magician's Nephew the best. I don't remember exactly why, but I know that I loved the part about the magic puddles -- being able to jump into one and suddenly be transported to some other place intrigued me. (Maybe that's the source of my Wanderlust..... that fascination with travel....) If I remember correctly, the characters did not know where each puddle would take them -- they jumped into a complete surprise. I remember listening while my dad read the story, letting my mental-theater play out the meadow of puddles stretching away in all directions, each the "door" to some other place. I wanted to be transported by a magic puddle to wherever the adventure was taking the book-characters -- to be a part of the story instead of merely listening to it.

Now the story that is my life is full of puddles -- literally. It has been raining so much here in Shamgona the last couple of weeks, there are more puddles than road in the road. (Did that make sense?) Walking or running down the road is a constant exercise in coordination and depth-perception, dodging the animal droppings, skirting the edges of the puddles to catch the dry ground, at the same time taking the straightest route through the myriad puddles dotting the road surface. Otherwise my path would look like "Billy's route through the yard" in the "Family Circus" comic from the Sunday paper -- circumnavigating every possible obstacle. It is not possible to go in a straight line. That would land me smack-dab in a puddle......

I was thinking about this a couple of days ago while out for a run, and skirting all the puddles reminded me of The Magician's Nephew and the magic-transport puddles. I thought about trying out the nearest one.....maybe the moment I broke its surface I really would emerge into a surprise....but I didn't want that surprise to end up being wet feet, so I didn't jump. I did, however, think about the correlation between Lewis's magic puddles and my constant freedom to travel and how the two are pretty much equal to many of the Georgian villagers that I live around. The probability of one of those puddles in the road taking me someplace is as close to nil as my colleagues and neighbors going......pretty much anyplace.

Tomorrow I will get on a bus to Tbilisi, spend the night there, and on Saturday, continue on with my friends to Sighnaghi in the region of Kakheti.....someplace that Tea has never been....nor Lika.....nor Sopo -- three of the most highly-educated women in the village. The idea of never going anyplace is so foreign to me, yet I am sure that the idea of going anyplace one wants is just as foreign to these ladies that I work with. They probably watch me get on the marshutka out of town, backpack in hand, and to them, it's like I have jumped into a magic puddle that will transport me to some exotic place to which they have no access. The amount of money that I make here is negligible, but it is more than twice what the national teachers make. My small salary allows me to travel where and when I like. My colleagues do not have the means to do what I am able to do. Traveling within Georgia is so inexpensive, I could afford to go someplace every weekend if I wanted to. But I know that if I did that, the life-style-chasm between the Georgians and me would widen drastically. I don't want that to happen. I would prefer to take them all with me on my adventures -- to hold their hands and have them jump into the magic puddle with me. Maybe I will take them with me.....

The region north of Samegrelo (where I live) is one of the most beautiful, wild places in all of Georgia -- Svaneti. It is the one place that I must see before I leave the country. And again, neither Tea, Lika, nor Sopo have ever been there. I am still astounded by this fact -- to have lived less than 50 kilometers from one of the most beautiful places in the country for one's entire life and to have never gone there..... I cannot fathom that. Tea said that we will go in the spring once the road over the mountain pass is open and the spring flowers are in bloom. I would love for all of us ladies to be able to go together. Sharing the newness of a beautiful place with these ladies would be a highlight of my experience here. I can imagine how happy they would all be to be able to go someplace new and exciting -- to stand together and drink in the picturesque view.....

Yes, let's hold hands and jump into the "Svaneti" puddle.

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